So I'm coming here to officially eat crow on Lance.
I didn't think he could mature, I didn't think he could grow, and I didn't think he would learn. I was wrong. Look the thing about Lance and I is that I have watched him since he was in High School when he was a strong IU lean before the whole Sampson mess went down. I saw a kid with tremendous wing talent to make individually amazing plays, but his biggest issue was that he forced too much. Every amazing play was followed by two amazingly bone headed plays that weren't just bad decisions but also showed a lack of skill. Lance is exciting always has been, and now that he is being used as this wing offensive initiator he is playing the role that I thought would give him the best shot to play. Lance I still believe is not a "PG" he is not the guy you want getting your offense set up, but he is the guy you want slicing up the defense a lot of the time once you have your offense set up. Hill and Lance blend very well because of this and I think Lance and DJ can blend very well because of this as well.
Lance had his high school days, and then the IU event happened and Lance was back on the market for a lot of college teams, he ended up landing at Cincinatti where he was good, but never really dominant yet again. And what dinged me off a little more about him was here was a guy who's two schools were either a Kelvin Sampson led IU program (uh, oh) and Cincinatti.
Then we had some of the character events his first year, and well it was downhill from there with me and him. In the end, the NBA is a business and I viewed Lance as a huge unknown in the Pacers quest to shed their "thug" label among the casual Indianapolis fan, but then a few things happened and Lance began to change both on the court and IMO probably off of it (I now see Lance at Mo's after a lot of game and he seems to be very approachable and if anything he seems shy, just wants to eat his dinner and go). We signed David West of course, and then we also had the event where Lance visited Area55 and this made it onto PD and I began to wonder, maybe this kid will get it.
Well he has, and now he is an absolute joy to watch. He is a prototype NBA microwave style shooting guard and he plays damn good defense to boot. I love his trash talking. I'm glad we were blessed with a coach in Vogel who IMO always knew that Lance's future would be on the wing.
Seth and I talked last night at half time, the contract decision for the Pacers is probably not Danny vs. West, it is probably Lance vs. Danny where do these two end up coming in and where does OJ end up growing to. I don't know what kind of deal Lance and Danny may get next, but I do know that if we have to part ways with one of them it will be a sad day in Pacer nation.
We are so blessed as a fan of a franchise that has allowed us to watch so many young players grow up, it is an amazingly fun bonding event between a franchise and a player, we know the historical guys, Reggie, Dale Davis, Rik Smits, Antonio, etc. we got to watch those guys go from fresh faced NBA first round fodder to eventually damn near NBA champions and maybe the best core of players to never win a title.
Now we have Danny, Paul, Lance, Roy, heck I'll even toss Tyler in here because I believe even he has stunned me and has managed to become a better defender this year. The Pacers have a little bit of a college feel to them, they take a core and they grow it and we the fans get to reap the rewards and suffering through the losses and the growing pains, and the "Will Paul ever learn how to dribble?" "Will Lance ever get it?" and then at the end, we get this great payoff, not just a team that is good and wins games, the Knicks have that, the Heat have that, but we have something different, something special, we have those memories where Paul could barely take Kyle Korver off the bounce let alone Lebron James, we have the memories where Lance could barely play 30 seconds against Rodney Stuckey before making a bone headed mistake, let alone 39 minutes of inspired exciting basketball against one of the best shooting guards of the past 20 years.
Yes, Pacers fans, we are blessed with another team we have gotten to watch grow up. Now we just get to sit back, watch, and enjoy. And for me Lance's journey may be the most satisfying one of all.